WHILE being interviewed recently on the Ryan Tubridy Show (fame at last etc) I mistakenly said that Facebook had bought a company, Oculus Rift, for .5m. Ryan is no fool, and he spotted it quickly and got me out of trouble. The figure, of course, was .5bn.
It got me thinking. Does it make any difference to any of us? A few zeros here and there? Unless your name is Trump, or Gates or Zucherberg, you are most unlikely to be writing a cheque that large, not to mind seeing it on your bank statement. For the record, a billion is a thousand thousand thousands. 1,000,000,000. Or, for simplicity, a thousand million.
Mind you, we got ourselves knotted up in a few of them ourselves in 2008, when the IMF took over. There was a €120bn of debt swilling around the Department of Finance for a while and we were all getting very vexed indeed about it. That’s all settled down again now and it appears all has been forgiven, if not forgotten. They pushed a large portion of it into long-term debt and, hopefully inflation will take care of that. Anyway sure, we can just print more if we need it.
I have so say I found it rather amusing to hear the politicians fighting over what they were and weren’t going to do with €8bn recently. Where is that money coming from? Surely not from us ordinary tax-paying mortals? And it’s the way they make it sound like they are giving it to us!
In some ways, it’s like thinking about space and the universe. At a certain point, you simply can’t get it into your head, endlessness and black holes and gravitational waves. It’s like that with large sums of money. Your mind can only stretch to the value of something you know, like the price of a house, for instance. Half a million, maybe. But after that it’s a bit like the fog that drifts in over the Fastnet. It can be hard to see.